What is it?
The Community Cancer Prevention & Screening Dashboard is an online tool that co-ordinates provincial and local cancer statistics, making them accessible, easy-to-read and useful for the public. Albertans can access this user-friendly “dashboard” to learn more about cancer prevalence, modifiable risk factors and screening rates in their communities. The product is a partnership between the Alberta Cancer Prevention Legacy Fund (ACPLF) and Alberta Health Services Public Health Surveillance and Infrastructure in an effort to reduce the rate of preventable cancer in our province.
Melissa Potestio is a senior scientist for the ACPLF. She says before the dashboard existed, there was no co-ordinated place where this type of data was publicly available and translated for Albertans.
“We really wanted to do this to help inform and evaluate local cancer prevention and screening strategies,” she says.
How does it work?
The dashboard’s interactive features help everyday Albertans understand and use the data in meaningful ways. Community groups are able to compare local screening rates, such as breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening, to provincial targets to measure local prevention efforts and identify priorities.
Last year, the province targeted the 70 per cent of eligible Alberta women who would receive breast cancer screening. Screening is cited as the best way to detect breast cancer in its early stages. The actual provincial screening rate in 2016 for women ages 50 to 74 was 62.8 per cent. If you lived in the community of Wood Buffalo, for instance, you would see that the screening rate in your area was 38.6 per cent. Potestio says providing data at the lowest geography possible is key in supporting local communities with healthy decision-making. “They can look at the dashboard and have an overall sense of where their opportunities are for improvement,” she says.
Why is it important?
According to AHS, about 45 per cent of cancer cases in Alberta are linked to a handful of modifiable factors, such as smoking, stress, sun exposure and screening measures. The dashboard provides evidence-based, locally relevant data concerning these and other cancer risks, as well as advice and opportunities for individuals and communities to take action.
Users can easily find detailed sources for each data element, interactive tools like the HPV Vaccine Decision Tool, and clear explanations of the scientific associations between certain behaviours and health risks. For example, the dashboard not only shows the most recent statistics for sunburns in Alberta’s communities but also explains the scientific link between UV exposure and skin cancers.
“When you’re looking at the prevalence of sunburn in the province, we actually spell that out so that every Albertan can understand why that’s important information,” Potestio says.
What is the goal?
The dashboard’s immediate goal is to promote healthy communities in our province. The tool makes it easier for all Albertans to find and use comprehensive cancer profiles for their area, and to provide the resources for governments, community organizations and individuals to take action in reducing the risk of cancer.
“We hope that the average Albertan would be interested in looking at this type of data to then give some consideration to how they themselves feel about their modifiable risk factors,” said Potestio. “Are they considering their fruit and vegetable intake? Are they interested maybe in taking action on their Body Mass Index?”
The dashboard will expand to include online forums as well as local resources for cancer prevention programs, from smoking cessation courses to more information on other community health resources. Potestio says the dashboard is part of a bigger vision for health promotion and cancer and chronic disease prevention in the province.
“Our goal, ultimately, is for an Alberta where most cancer is prevented.”